Saturday, 30 April 2016

New cover pic for Moso book...

 Have finally finished painting up the boards for our latest book on "Moso". As I find with all of the ancient Samoan stories series books, it's quite hard to consider what the pictures might look like for each page as it's a balance between trying to stay true to the essence of the story, my developing artistic skills and what the audience needs to understand from each page. So am happy that the wait is finally over and will be taking over to the printers ready for launching late next month.

I think for me, the story of Moso has been one that I have held as a child as it was passed down to me from my parents and then in visiting Samoa in the early 1970s, I was able to see the rock formation for the first time and was then told the story once again whilst viewing the site. I remember taking the story to my class for "news time" upon returning from Samoa and then I visited the site in 1989 before the devastating cycles of Val and Ofa in the early 1990s. It was then that I heard that the village of Falealupo, the sacred sites and surrounding areas were decimated as a result.

However, when I went to Samoa in November of last year, and went to see the site, it had changed somewhat as well as the story added to. With the tala o le vavau series I try to keep as close to the origins as well as checking the story version with the writers of old but then must always have the disclaimer that it is but one version of many versions of the tala.

This morning, in taking a walk with my beloved, I asked the question about why should such stories be important to write about for a so-called "enlightened" Samoan society and he reminded me about the old and new testament and how the old testament heralded the coming of the new testament. This is a direct parallel to the Nafanua story (which I'm hoping to add at some latter stage) in which she heralded the coming of someone/something that would bring Samoa together (very general storyline.)

With more to come...

Friday, 29 April 2016

Great Pacific navigators... "future-focused"...

Yesterday I watched this video clip before going to my Doctoral group meeting and it was foremost in my mind when we were asked by another Samoan/Pasifika doctoral student to identify two words that you have in mind when asked about qualities of a leader (her thesis is around Pasifika notions of leader/ship for teachers).

The first two words that popped into my head were "future-focused" which also counted as two words "future" and "focused". She then asked our group of about 7 students and 3 professors to enact those words expressed through our body into the centre floor space of our group as we were all seated on chairs around in a circle. She explained that she had also enacted this with a group of Pacific post-graduate students at a writing retreat which I wasn't able to attend due to work and family commitments.

Anyway, it was interesting because I could see the hesitation in the other attendees but because she was a Samoan student colleague and in wanting to help her out and having had experiences in drama, I was the first to shoot out into the middle of the floor, on one bended knee and with my right hand placed above my brow as if to be looking for land as I thought my ancestors would have done when arriving near land and I said "future focused".

I did get a few laughs and a couple were surprised but then others jumped in and formed themselves around me expressing their words through their actions such as "humility and wisdom", "innovative and critique" etc. It was an interesting exercise because I think I've come so far in that I no longer have the hang ups that I did as not being confident in drama as a child and having written, directed and produced plays/school productions, it's now normal for me to be out of my earlier comfort zone.

There were some in the room who weren't comfortable with the exercise but it helped me to reflect on how teaching and being in so many different forums has really enabled me to assist others in their work and in moving forward.

In yesterday's forum, she also reminded me about blogging can be a "tool" that can be used to document ideas and thoughts and henceforth, you'll be seeing some of the thoughts that I'm working on in my thesis discussed through this blog and in sharing some of these thoughts, I hope that it will be of some benefit, inspiration, create dialogue or critique from you as the reader.

Some of it may even be controversial and will challenge some of the paradigms out there but I do want to share my findings to assist or create reflection on what's happening in current scholarship (scholarly writings) some of which I will be defending and others of which I will be challenging or critiquing. In fact, I feel that yesterday's workshop helped me to move somewhat on my ideas of my identity as a NZ Samoan woman but also as Pasifika but more on that in my next blog...

Monday, 25 April 2016

ANZAC Day and tala o le vavau...

Today as I reflect on the past albeit the lives of past soldiers given up for the freedom for their countries, in ANZAC day commemorations, and the few left RSA (Returned Servicemen Associations) survivors of an almost forgotten age, as well as reflecting upon the lives of my many ancestors who were once survivors of now an almost lost age.

This weekend, I've started typing up my 1989 first Masters thesis to get ready for publishing in the not too distant future. It tells stories of a time that is now long forgotten of the anamua (ancient Samoan) time period and the participants who took part in my studies, some of whom have passed on.

The above book with the cover art drawn by reknown Samoan artist Fatu Feu'u, was a book that I carried around with me, in the late 1980s, when I was studying in my twenties. It reminded me of the importance of such stories that would be lost in time if not preserved.

In now publishing many of those these ancient Samoan stories, in simplified versions, for the next generations, the thesis explains the ideas that I learnt upon my journey to understanding where I came from in my Samoan descent, in what my ancestors were unable to teach me.

It's been a real privilege and honour in being able to share these stories and there are many people whom I am indebted to for starting me upon this amazing journey that has brought me to the place of being able to publish these stories for my children and for many others.

And may God be given all the praise and glory...

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Jungle book - family night at the movies...

When I asked my children to decide on a movie to watch as a family movie night out "Jungle book" was chosen by the eldest as a good "family" movie to watch which would cater for our family's interests of: a 5 year old, tween, teen, twenties and mature adults. So after watching the movie trailer, which I was directed to by our eldest, we decided to watch it - 3D (might I add) and we were in for a pleasant surprise.

I must confess that I don't remember reading Rudyard Kipling's original book (or I might have when I was very young but can't recall)  anyway, the 3D effects just added to the believeability (my own word) of the movie and with the inclusion of the different characters I remember in the various versions over the years, it was pretty neat to watch. Although I must say that the songs didn't quite fit for me as with the animated version i.e."The bear necessities".

The main character of Mogli was well acted and the story line had a different emphasis but on the whole it was a neat night out for a party of 6 and enjoyable for all...

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Child sponsorship through World Vision or Tear fund etc...

Image result for world vision child sponsorship Today I was reminded about Child Sponsorship through a campaign that Radio Rhema is running in partnership with TearFund towards a drive to ask for more Child sponsors. You can listen to the campaign on Radio Rhema 1251 AM frequency.

For me, I remember the first time I learnt about this concept was as a child in Sunday school and our then minister, the late Bob Challis who was originally from the London Missionary society had settled in our community with his late wife, Rose Challis, (who was also my piano teacher) and they both encouraged the Sunday school to sponsor a child, therefore, every month we would take an offering so that we could contribute to that fund.

After some years, I remember they decided not to continue, perhaps because it was too much to ask for and so it was abandoned. I then took up the challenge to sponsor a child while I was still single with one in Africa, South America and then when I got married, as a family we now sponsor a child in India and it supports his family and community projects.

When I also started a breakfast prayer group which will be now 20 years running next year at my birth church of PIC Mangere, I also encouraged our prayer group to sponsor a child which we did and then my father took up the challenge to sponsor a child through the elders group and then the Cook Island EKLS (Ekalesia or church community) followed suit with other groups joining in.

It was also neat because one of the rep's from World Vision came years ago to talk about it at the church service and brought with them sponsorship cards, so that it made it all the more easy to do. The premise, however, was to see if it was viable for your family or to sponsor as a group because it was not designed to get your own family into financial hardship but to work together as a group as you can make a difference to the lives of other families and their communities in developing countries by your donation.

I am so grateful to have had that opportunity to sow into the lives of other communities and to make a difference for one child. I think in today's society, we need to look beyond ourselves and our communities and to look upwards and outwards to where we area able to extend a helping hand.

It is around $10 a week or up to $50 per month but it really is up to what your budget can afford. Some families sponsor two or more children and some even go to visit them in their lands to see the difference that their money is making in the community.

So my challenge is that if you have got a bit of savings or an extra $10+ per week, instead of having that latte or takeaway, why not consider sponsoring a child and making a big difference in the life of someone you don't know, they family and their community. You will never know the happiness that your $ will make in changing a life for good...

Image result for Last night I joined up with LIFE Business, a business network arm of our church to begin to allow my niche publishing business to fly and there I heard the inspirational guest speaker and founder of "thankyou" Daniel Flynn, talk about his journey to start off his business with ups and downs and totally unconventional to where he is now launching into NZ as originally in Australia.

His discussion was so inspirational in that his business idea came from a heart of wanting to help children to have clean water in developing countries with the idea that if he was able to sell bottled water with the idea that 100% of the profits would go to funding projects that would help those countries. It was an amazing concept that many caught the vision of and now he has extended it to NZ in now selling not only water but branching into baby products, health foods, skin range etc.

His big message was to find out what your purpose is and it then it becomes the driving force behind why you do what you do, despite the roller coaster ride as it can help to get you to where you want to go in the hard times. This was just what I needed to hear as this will be the third business that I've been a part of and am trusting that this will begin to take off from 2017.

I remember at school that the big message for us was to get qualifications to get a job. I totally disagree with this, nowadays, in being aware of what I know today. I now believe that building great businesses that are in partnership with churches are the key to strengthening families, communities and nations and this particularly for Pasifika communities.

For me, I knew that I wanted to write starting in high school and even when I didn't receive the creative writing cup (although my sister did in Senior high school) it didn't stop me from writing my thoughts down in diary form, letters, filling in forms, sitting exams etc. I just loved to write whether by hand or now via computer/laptop etc.

Over the years, that idea strengthened and it took me to studying English literature papers as a double major with Geography in my Bachelor's degree at the University of Auckland, then taking a Creative writing paper as a extra Certificate course with Albert Wendt, then writing plays for church youth at Easter and Christmas, which later became an easy transition into writing plays for High schools where I now have 6 self published titles with 4 more plays to go from my earlier works.

I've started having big companies contact me to not only order books but also to promote them but I've been trying to contain everything whilst getting the funds sorted but after hearing tonight's speaker, it's more about stepping out in faith and letting God do His part. So I'm now even more excited about what the future holds...

Saturday, 16 April 2016

End of year Symposium...

Image result for symposium
Thank God for another beautiful day! Yesterday at work it was announced that we are having annual/biennial symposiums to highlight the research/rangahau (Maori principled research) that is occurring in our 'spaces' as teachers/academics/researchers/students etc.

I'm so looking forward to sharing about the various parts of my journey as a mum, storyteller, publisher, writer, academic, artist etc. and I thank God for these various skills that I've been gifted with and being able to share with others.

I remember that as a youngin', I was very shy and didn't like to talk at all in class. I'd cower if I had a teacher who'd ask questions to the class as I wasn't very self confident although I often did know the answer. Much has changed since those childhood days and the self confidence shined as I began to succeed in my academic journey in high school and into university.

But it wasn't until I became a high school teacher that I was able to overcome my fear of public speaking. I remember having to stand in front of a class in my early days of teaching and realising that this would have to be an every day occurrence and quite quickly over time I began to get used to the idea of talking publicly with classes and then eventually became a Dean and had to speak to large groups of students and teachers.

Since then, having worked in different forums i.e. the Ministry of Education, University of Auckland, Te Wananga o Aotearoa and more recently in book launches etc. I've become more confident in speaking publicly about things that I care for and am passionate about.

I look forward to sythesizing my thoughts in the theme of this year's symposium and reflecting on some of the learnings that I'll have made by November thus far. It's a chance to not only reflect but to hear other people's perspectives and ideas. I'm also looking forward to writing a poem for the time and to share it with the audience. November, here we come...

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Thesis research on Samoa and it's close neighbours ...

Image result for samoan proverbsI am currently writing up my first background chapter for my Doctoral thesis at AUT University and have been enjoying complementing my academic readings with attending weekly bilingual faamatai (Samoan chiefly titles) classes at PEC Pacific Education Centre. A learned colleague there has been teaching High school students for many years and holds community classes that have been also running for many years and is it an honour and privilege for me to attend.

So that in between writing up books, painting or organising the printing and launching of our various books, and a working fulltime mum, I make time to consider many things including the historical background of Samoa and the relationship that it had with various other close Pacific neighbours in the history of Samoa. In fact, Fiji features very predominantly in historical and mythical stories of old although Niue, Tuvalu and Tokelau feature highly in familial settings.

In fact, it is quite possible that there were many power plays between the 3 main Pacific powers of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa as is told in many stories of old. However, as each Pasifika group of islands continued to develop so did their similarities differ more markedly and even more so in recent history with the nations of Samoan, Tonga and Fiji differing greatly in their political structure in current years.

It makes me consider how Samoa became the first Pacific nation to become self governing and to pursue/seek it's independence in 1962 away from colonial political strongholds which differs from Tonga's monarchy and Fiji's coups who have sort to take back their indigenous rights to land and self governing although sometimes through a democratic process.

As a Samoa, I am greatly encouraged that our future is secure in terms of self governing but am unsure of the what lies ahead in the future for education as I see Western influences permeating Samoa's culture and the Samoan education system as it has in New Zealand for Samoan children. But more about this in future blogs as I seek to learn more about where we are, where we have come from and where we are going to.

Ia manuia and looking forward to the journey ahead...

Wednesday, 13 April 2016


 As well as the book launch we were also able to launch the new website of: (thanks to Mele Heketoa, J.P.) as the new author website that will house information regarding each book and any relevant information that may be of interest to readers.

At present it's mostly "under construction" as we consider different areas of interests: with the 3 play scripts that have been published as well as the 3 Samoan bilingual picture books of ancient Samoan stories. I'm also hoping to have a section for poetry, (short stories collection and novel to launch next year), a gallery of artworks and it will also house a direct link to my blog.

Feedback will be greatly appreciated to feed into the website and I hope to also have a "Q and A" section and photos of the different launches, school visits and being out and about with the books or when researching materials.

Am hoping to also have a shopping cart for those who would rather buy online but there are also a variety of social "platforms" or forums that I can be contactable on such as: Facebook; Pinterest; LinkedIn; Twitter (although I haven't had time to "tweet"); Etsy etc. and the list goes on.

As with the book launches, it's about a "grass roots" level movement in that I'm hoping to begin share my stories firstly within the Mangere area and then to move within South Auckland and then to the Pacific Islands and then globally.

If there's one thing I've learnt in this whole exercise of becoming a writer/author, it's about never giving up on your dreams and to keep working on the skills that will take you to where you want to go. Plenty of prayer is also a part of the recipe and relying on someone who is much bigger than yourself is a big help too...

Monday, 11 April 2016

Launching of "Su'e the lost son" thank you, thank you, thank you...

Mele blessed the day with a prayer...
Many thanks go out to my friends and family for the humbling support that was received for the launching of our 6th book "Su'e the lost son" which is the 3rd book in the play series.

It all started when my good friend Mele Heketoa (JP) prayed a special blessing for the day and then later on for the book and a neat welcome given by Richy, (and his team) the library manager at Tupu Youth library (Otara).

Also had my faiaoga (teacher) for the weekly Samoan bilingual faamatai classes that I attend, which was a neat surprise, le fetalaiga ia Tauanu'u (Mr Tapu) join us with the head girl and some seniors from McAuley High school in Otahuhu who are in a creative writing group of which one was able to share a poetry reading with us which was fantastic! and a glimpse of the new writers to come.

And then the amazing acting of La'au (aka Lanzwel) who was the original Su'e in the play that was performed 20 years ago (it was the 20th anniversary of the play) and he acted out a scene with his acting partner "the Switchman" and it made me smile and gave back so many special memories of the time as a budding writer in the mid 1990s.

Was truly blessed to also have Zee Southcombe attend the launch, the writer whose self publishing story inspired me to give it a go and to have her see how she blessed me by starting her journey was another special moment and a thought about how one conversation can change a life and that you never know where your positive (sometimes negative) influence goes.

It is one of the book launches that I really enjoyed (although I have enjoyed all of them) and now looking forward to the next launch at Otahuhu library on Friday 27 May at lunch time and thank God for these wonder-filled opportunities to launch at grassroots level...

Lanzwel (aka Styx) and Switchman performing a scene from "Su'e the lost son"

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Moso's footprint...

Image result for moso falealupoIt's going to be a busy week this week as I'm looking forward to the book launch this Friday and as I continue my studies towards a doctorate in Education at AUT University which combines my interest in Indigenous education and storytelling.

I'm also working on painting up our next picture book which is about the story of Moso, from the village of Falealupo on the big island of Savai'i, which was where my maternal great, great Grandmother Melea (who married my German great, great grandfather Charles Spitzenburg) was from. I remember visiting the site in 1989 with the late Aeau (principle storyteller extraordinaire) and meeting some of my family who lived there at the time.

Last year, in December, I visited Falealupo with my husband and children to view the sacred sites and also to research material for this book. The interesting differences are that the after some 25+ years later, the site which was once isolated now has houses close by and the site itself has changed somewhat.

I also listened to the story and found that there has been additional information that had been added by the storyteller that is quite different from the stories that I'd collected and also my recollections as a child when I visited with my parents and family in the early 1970s but that's life and I look forward to sharing this story with readers in May...